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Why the Taliban Attacked the Taverna du Liban in Kabul

Last Friday’s Taliban attack in Kabul, Afghanistan was the deadliest attack (on foreigners) in the last twelve years inside Kabul’s highly guarded Ring-of-Steel. Last year, a number of attacks in Kabul left countless dead. Behind the tragedy that claimed the lives of 21 people (including the IMF head and several UN officials), there is a deeper story everyone must know. I was a frequent visitor of Taverna du Liban during the time I lived in Afghanistan. These locales catering to affluent Afghans and expats have never been on the radar of the Taliban. Why? Because the owners of these establishments pay a monthly “bribe” to corrupt Afghan police who then indirectly purchase a security guarantee from the Taliban to remove these locations from targeted hit lists. (Recently the New York Times wrote about Afghan police who have not been paid since last November). In 2010, the western media reported on how USAID indirectly paid the Taliban billions not to attack incoming logistical convoys traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

So what is happening now? According to Afghan officials, pro-Pakistani ISI Afghans have embedded themselves in the central government in Kabul. While the US and international forces are running for the exits, these Afghans are desperately trying to secure their future in a post-2014 Afghanistan. Pro-Pakistan Afghans appear on the surface to be pro-Western but they have robbed American taxpayers and Afghans while simultaneously working with Pakistan. Why?

They are buying an insurance policy to make sure they remain in power if and when the Taliban retake Afghanistan. This is a deadly strategy.

How ironic that last Friday’s Taliban attack was more precise than a surgical drone attack by the Americans. It wasn’t just a random coincidence. The identity and itinerary of the victims were relayed and the killings were well orchestrated with pinpoint precision.

Why do the Taliban continue to attack Western targets despite the fact that coalition forces will be leaving by 2014? The Taliban have committed gross injustices against Afghans who are tools to advance the goals of Pakistan’s ISI. But the Taliban have also been deceived by corrupt Afghan officials. These corrupt officials have received the lion’s share of US aid dollars and other foreign aid earmarked for development projects.

Corrupt Afghans have a policy of divide and conquer. They have engineered a system to demoralize Afghans and have imposed barriers to prevent everyday Afghans from starting businesses due to kickbacks. They have managed to control the three interlocking spheres of Afghanistan’s war economy with their tight-knit clique. They block anyone who wants to serve the public good; they broadcast mixed messages to confuse the masses and they want to keep the Afghans deprived and illiterate so they cannot challenge their rule. The tens of billions they have been awarded have been spent on phantom projects that don’t exist and the money, running into the billions, has been siphoned into offshore private banking accounts.

Corrupt Afghans know their days are numbered if the Americans and NATO leave so they have a three-pronged objective: to drive away the international aid donors and replace them with their own cadre, curry favor with the Taliban and demonstrate their loyalty to Pakistan. To achieve this goal they must collaborate with the enemies of Afghanistan while publicly pretending to be good Muslims and acting like they are loyal to the US and the international community. These internal problems have even President Hamid Karzai worried. Karzai has a set a litany of conditions before he signs the bilateral security agreement that is key to Afghanistan’s future.

Afghan officials have relayed to me that post-2014, Afghanistan could face a genocide of a magnitude where “dogs won’t be able to find their owners” and “that the scale of death and destruction can dwarf the calamity and carnage of the past 35 years.” Something must be done now. The thought of this worst-case scenario for Afghanistan frightens me. My solution: remove all pro-ISI double agents from the Afghan government and dismantle Karzai’s kleptocracy. To do this requires profound leadership and the moral courage by those who are in a position to do something. No Afghan can remain passive. In the meantime, don’t just be disgusted with the Taliban but also with corrupt Afghan officials who are undermining Afghanistan’s future.